Stories from America’s 15 Most Haunted Hotels
It’s after midnight when you park. According to the hotel sign, it’s open.
Dashing through the rain, you pull open the heavy door and step inside.
An oil painting of an old man hangs above the front desk. His eyes follow as you tentatively walk across the creaky floor. You hit the bell.
Its “ding” echoes loudly. Lightning flashes outside. Something moves in the corner.
Heart thudding, you quickly look up and … nothing.
“Hello,” you say, “Is there someone here who can help me?”
Hotels are hotbeds for paranormal activity, and many embrace claims of paranormal encounters both guests and staff have experienced in haunted hotels.
Curious about spooky spots located all across the USA?
We’ve listed 15 of them here. Plus, find out how to tell if a hotel you’re staying at is haunted.
Table of Contents
1. Famous Haunted Hotels & Their Stories
2. The Equinox
3. Hotel Chelsea
4. Hotel La Fonda
5. Marshall House
6. Buxton Inn
7. Read House Hotel
8. Hollywood Roosevelt
9. Congress Plaza Hotel
10. National Exchange Hotel
11. Emily Morgan Hotel
12. Driskill Hotel
13. El Rancho Hotel
14. Red Lion Inn
15. Stanley Hotel
16. 1886 Crescent Hotel & Spa
17. How to Get in the Spirit on a Business Trip
Famous Haunted Hotels & Their Stories
Across the country, you’ll find notorious hotels where guests — some famous, some historically relevant, and some just too stubborn to leave — have enjoyed themselves so much they opted for an extended stay.
1. The Equinox Resort & Spa
Built in Vermont in 1769, the Equinox is bound to be at least a little bit haunted. Originally called the Marsh Tavern, throughout the years it’s seen its share of history and notable guests — including many presidents.
During renovations, a previously unknown secret passageway that connected two rooms was discovered, along with a scale that still works. In the resort’s early days, it was apparently the custom for guests to weigh themselves and prove that they had gained weight during their stay.
Legend has it that former first lady Mary Todd Lincoln enjoyed her stays there so much, she still visits from time to time — which is convenient since the hotel is located quite near the Lincoln Estate.
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2. Hotel Chelsea
Listed as the second most haunted place in New York, the Hotel Chelsea holds over a century of history.
From Titanic survivors to Madonna, its towering brick structure with wrought iron balconies has housed and inspired all sorts of people over the years. One of Leonard Cohen’s famous croons is titled “Chelsea Hotel #2.” Mark Twain, Stanley Kubrick and Bob Dylan have also stayed there.
Rumor has it that there are many lingering ghosts who still occupy the space.
According to a medium, a ghost named Larry is the most talkative, allegedly so intent on sharing his story he annoys the other ghosts with his incessant chatter.
Another ghost, Mary, is a Titanic survivor who lost her husband. She still hangs out on the western end of the fifth floor. Those who encounter her are urged to leave her alone; she is annoyed by the living and prefers to be left in peace.
3. La Fonda
The only hotel in the Historic Santa Fe Plaza, Hotel La Fonda is steeped in historic luxury with a dash of contemporary charm and a little something else, too.
In the 1970s, a guest called the front desk of the hotel to complain about a man pacing the hallway outside of his room. The front desk staff went to investigate and saw a tall man in a long black coat disappear into a stairwell. The clerk dashed after him, but when he reached the stairwell, there was no sign of the man.
4. Marshall House
Voted Best Boutique Hotel in 2014 by Savannah Magazine, the Marshall House, built in Georgia in 1851, features the original floors, doors, and other architectural quirks.
During the Civil War, it was occupied by the Union and used as a hospital. In the 1990s, workers replacing damaged floorboards found human remains, which historians later determined were bones from the amputated limbs of soldiers.
Guests have experienced door handles moving, lights flickering, unexplained noises and water faucets randomly being turned on.
5. The Buxton Inn
Originally known as The Tavern, the Buxton Inn opened its doors in 1812. It provided refuge for those seeking freedom on the Underground Railroad and welcomed guests including Henry Ford and Abraham Lincoln.
It is said that the former caretakers cared so deeply for this place they still visit from time to time, checking in to make sure everything is running smoothly.
One of the former owners, Ethel Houston — also known as the Lady in Blue — is a frequent visitor known to be accompanied by the scent of gardenias when she visits.
Ethel’s cat visits too, and has cuddled with guests occupying room number 9, where she resided with her owner.
6. The Read House Hotel
Built in 1872, the Read House endured floods, the Civil War, the Great Depression, epidemics and more.
It’s been restored to reflect what it was like in the 1920s: the place to be to enjoy Southern hospitality.
Room 311 is where some experience the ghost of Annalisa Netherly. Some say she died of a broken heart, others say she was murdered by a jealous lover.
Guests who have stayed in that room have called the front desk and complained to night staff that they couldn’t sleep due to a “strange” feeling. Other guests have had sightings, claiming she appeared before them.
7. Hollywood Roosevelt
Many believe the Hollywood Roosevelt (c. 1927) encapsulates the Golden Era of Hollywood. Clark Gable, Charlie Chapman and a slew of other stars chose it as the hot-spot getaway destination. Marilyn Monroe still visits from time to time. Ghosts of other lesser-known actors desperate to be seen still appear as well.
A medium once connected with a man who looked to be from the 1920s. He was dressed in a tux, walking around in the Blossom Ballroom. The psychic claimed the man was an Oscar nominee and is still very much attached to his dreams of making it in the industry.
8. Congress Plaza Hotel
The 1893 Congress Plaza Hotel is conveniently located in the heart of Chicago, with views of Lake Michigan through its expansive windows. It’s thought to be one of the most haunted places in the city.
Throughout the centuries, many guests have passed through its doors and enjoyed their stay in the luxurious hotel.
However, the hotel was also the setting of tragedies — such as in 1904, when an elevator operator fell hundreds of feet down the elevator shaft and died upon impact.
At one point, certain rooms were closed to the public, and one was even fully sealed because of the extreme levels of paranormal activity.
Guests and staff alike have experienced cold spots and seen figures including that of a young boy. They’ve also heard soft, ghostly voices and witnessed objects move as if tossed across the room by an invisible hand.
9. The National Exchange Hotel
The National Exchange Hotel, located in Nevada City, California, has been operating since 1856 and is the oldest hotel west of the Mississippi.
Some guests have caught a glimpse of Elizabeth, a young girl who was thought to have died of an illness and likes to skip rope or ride her tricycle on the second floor.
People staying at the hotel have also spotted men dressed in old Western clothing smoking in the lobby and women in fancy Victorian dress settling in at the bar.
10. The Emily Morgan Hotel *
USA Today touts the Emily Morgan Hotel, now a part of the Hilton brand umbrella, as the third most haunted hotel in the world.
While the hotel has only been in operation since 1984, the triangular-shaped building (considered the first skyscraper in the American West), complete with terracotta gargoyles clinging to its façade, used to be a medical facility.
When the building was constructed in 1924, the basement was the morgue and the upper floors, where windows could be cranked open to relieve some of the stench, were used for surgical procedures.
While the hotel has no 13th floor, guests on the 14th floor have reported that when they opened their hotel guest room door, instead of the hallway, to their horror they saw a scene from a hospital playing out right before their eyes.
Guests on the 12th floor experience spooky sounds, lights flashing, water dripping and other paranormal activity.
The elevators are said to have a mind of their own, operating without being prompted. The elevators also sometimes zoom past the selected floor, choosing a different destination for the guest.
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11. The Driskill Hotel
Located in the heart of downtown Austin, Texas, the Driskill Hotel is a fine example of a historic hotel in America.
It’s also home to a notoriously suave spook — the ghost of a Texas cowboy with legendary swagger.
Annie Lennox claimed he picked out her stage outfit for her while she showered, and Concrete Blonde wrote their song “The Ghost of a Texas Ladies Man” in his honor.
Other ghosts, such as that of a jilted bride, are known to haunt the rooms and halls.
12. El Rancho Hotel
The website says it best: when staying at the El Rancho, you’ll be sleeping in a room where a movie star slept.
In the 1930s and 1940s, the El Rancho Hotel was the luxury spot movie stars went to relax and have fun. Legend has it that some still check in from time to time, including none other than John Wayne.
History buffs can view pictures of stars from Tom Mix to Errol Flynn in the upper floor gallery. Read letters from actors (including Ronald Reagan) to the hotel reminiscing about staying there while filming the first Westerns.
13. The Red Lion Inn
The Red Lion Inn was built in 1773 and became one of the most popular retreats in the Berkshires. It is no stranger to famous guests over the centuries and has stood through much turmoil and change.
Scroll through TripAdvisor reviews to learn about guests’ spooky experiences, most occurring in hotel room 301. Multiple guests say they’ve experienced their toes being pulled, felt another person under the covers with them, and were temporarily paralyzed while someone fluffed their comforter.
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14. The Stanley Hotel
Built in 1909, this hotel in Estes Park, Colorado, wowed guests with its palatial grandeur in the Colorado wilderness.
Throughout the years, however, the hotel fell into disrepair. In the 1970s, it was a somewhat shabby rendition of its former self when Stephen King checked into room 217 with his wife Tabatha. He hoped to finish writing the last chapters of a book.
That night, King had a vivid nightmare in which his son was being chased by a coiled firehose that had come to life. When he was able to pull himself out of the dream, he lit a cigarette, sat by the open window still shaken and sketched out the plot for The Shining.
King is not the only one to experience things in room 217.
Guests have met a helpful presence, waking up to a room tidier than it was when they fell asleep. One guest even felt the bed being made when they were laying in it trying to sleep.
15. The 1886 Crescent Hotel & Spa
Located in Eureka Springs, Arkansas, the grand, somewhat formidable Crescent Hotel and Spa sits on 15 manicured acres.
It’s been dubbed the most haunted hotel in America by Ghost Hunters and other paranormal investigators.
The building was formerly a girls’ college and then a cancer treatment center where a man named Norman Baker claimed to have found the cure for cancer.
Of the Crescent’s many ghost stories and unexplained happenings, the most bizarre is what occurs on the third floor. Guests taking the nightly ghost tour have grown faint, collapsed and even briefly lost consciousness at the entrance to an old passage leading to the former hospital annex.
The hotel is such a hotbed of activity that paranormal researchers gather annually in what’s known as Eureka Springs Paranormal Weekend.
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How to Get in the Spirit on a Business Trip
Whether you’re traveling alone or with a group for business, why not have some fun, get into the Halloween spirit, and see what you uncover?
If you dare…
Find Out if Your Hotel Is Haunted
Ask staff members if they have heard any stories or perhaps have had experiences or sightings.
Inquire about the hotel’s history. If it’s in an old building, chances are it has a rich history. If it’s located in a historically relevant area, there may still be some paranormal energy or ghostly apparitions inside the hotel or on the grounds. Knowing the history of where you’re staying is a fun way to feel connected to it, and have a deeper appreciation for it.
You could even download a ghost hunting app to take your supernatural explorations to the next level!
Take a Local Ghost Tour
If your hotel isn’t haunted, you can still scare up some excitement. Do some research to see if the city you’re staying in offers any ghost tours. These are often a fun and entertaining way to learn about the area’s history, hear some local legends and check out cool landmarks around town.
No ghost tour in town?
You might wander through an old graveyard instead to get a sense of the people who have lived there throughout history — some of whom might still be hanging around.
Whether you’re looking to stay at a haunted hotel or somewhere that strictly caters to the living, you can find great rates on Hotel Engine. Business travelers can save up to 60%, and assistance with group lodging is available at no extra cost.
Cara Meglio is a Copywriter at Hotel Engine. She assists with content creation, researching and writing articles to help businesses improve their travel experience and discover helpful solutions with Hotel Engine. Cara has a passion for travel of all types. Based in Denver, CO, Cara loves exploring the Mountain West as well as international destinations.